Johnson Master – The Musical Genius

Johnson Master in Malayalam

– In ‘Thoovanathumbikal‘ , when it rains as Jayakrishnan writes the letter to Clara.
– In ‘Namukku Parkaan Munthiri Thoppukal‘ , when Solomon proposes to Sofia
– In ‘Dasharatham‘ , when Rajiv Menon asks Maggie if she can love him like Annie loves his son
– In ‘Aparan‘ , when Jayaram walks around the cremation site smiling leaving us to guess whether its Vishwanathan or the imposter is dead
– In ‘Vandanam‘ , when Unnikrishnan and Gatha could not meet at the end and part ways forever
– In ‘Chithram‘ , when Vishnu bids goodbye to Kalyani before he is taken to jail.
– In ‘Manichitrathaazhu‘ , when Ganga lashes her alter ego and shouts ‘Vidamatte’ as her husband denies her permission to shopping
– In ‘Sukrutham‘ , when Ravishankar reads the articles prepared about his own death before walking on the rail and committing suicide.
– In ‘Thaniyavarthanam‘ , when Balan Mash is introduced just as a neighbour in front of his own sister’s groom’s family
– In ‘Kireedam‘ , when Sethumadhavan drops his knife and cries out loud to sky at the end

These are among some of the best moments ever in Malayalam Cinema. They had amazing performances from the actors ,ingenious execution by the directors and deftly scripting by the screenplay writers. Apart from these ,they all had one more thing in common – Johnson Master’s eternal background scores.

Johnson , born on 26 March 1953, started his career as an assistant to G. Devarajan in 1970s,and debuted as an independent composer in late seventies with Aaravam. His first big break through was the song – ‘Aadi Vaa Katte’ in Koodevide .It also marked the start of a great long successful association with the director – Padmarajan who both then went on to make 17 movies together.

Sathyan Anthikad, Bharathan and Sibi Malayil are other directors with whom Johnson had other notable collaborations. Johnson had won the National Film Award for Best Background Score for the films Ponthan Mada and Sukrutham .He is the only composer to receive this rarely given award twice. He was also the first Malayalee music composer to receive an award in music category.

Its really tough to pick and list the best songs from a music director who has composed music for more than 300 Malayalam films (which is the most by any music director after Devarajan). But some of my favorites from the maestro’s works are “Devankanangal” (Njan Gandharvan) ,”Chandana cholayil” (Sallapam) , “Pathirappullunarnu” (Ee Puzhayum Kadannu) , “Kanneer Poovinte” (Kireedam) , “Kannadi Kayyil” (Paavam Paavam Rajakumaran) ,”Manassin Madiyile Manthalire” (Manathe Vellitheru) and “Manthara Cheppundo“(Dasharatham) 

My favorite background scores are from Thoovanathumbikal, Namukku Parkaan Munthiri Thoppukal , Vandanam, Chithram and Dasharatham – The gentle , warm and soothing feel they carried with them playing an important role in it .They made sure what we saw on-screen had an everlasting impact on us and I am pretty sure a lot of us do have these tracks saved and still love hearing to them after so many years. In Thoovanathumbikal and Namukku Parkkan Munthiri thoppukal , he made us want to fall in love .In Vandanam , Chithram , Dasharatham and Kireedam , he brought us to tears. In Aparan , Sadayam, Kariyila Kattu Pole and Manichitrathaazhu , he pumped up our hearts and brought us to the edge of your seats.

After Johnson’s demise following a heart attack on 18 Aug 2011 ,Singer G.Venuopal said in an interview that he don’t think the film industry has ever recognized Johnson Master’s worth. It could be true. If the late 1980s to early 1990s is known as the golden age of Malayalam cinema, Johnson had an equally vital role just as the directors like Padmarajan or Bharathan or actors like Mammootty and Mohanlal. His place lies among the greatest artists Malayalam Cinema has ever produced. As M B Srinivasan, the late music director, once famously said: “We have Johnson, and then we have tune-makers!”